Revival Is An Extraordinary Move Of The Holy Spirit
By Richard Owen Roberts
God has given gifts to men according to His own will and purpose. Men who exercise their gifts – whatever those gifts may be – will honor Christ and advance His cause. Ordinary gifts, exercised by ordinary men, produce ordinary results. The whole body of Christ relies upon these ordinary results. By these ordinary results the Church moves forward from generation to generation.
Occasionally, however, God Himself has taken ordinary men and through their ordinary efforts He has moved in an extraordinary fashion to produce truly extraordinary results. Pentecost was one of these occasions. Those who gathered in the Upper Room were people like us. They prayed as we pray. They waited on God as many of today’s Christians have waited on God. But, God met them in a marvelous fashion, changing their feeble efforts into a mighty movement which turned the world upside down. The marvel of Pentecost is not the extraordinary nature of the men or their methods but the Holy Spirit and the results He produced.
The great sixteenth-century Reformation is another of those extraordinary seasons. There is no human way to account for the splendid success of the Gospel under the preaching of such men as Luther, Calvin, Knox and a host of others, except to acknowledge that they labored in mighty days of revival.
America has seen revival also. The powerful effects of the preaching of George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, the Tennents, and a body of like-minded Christians can only be adequately described as the extraordinary movement of the Holy Spirit in revival.
Such was the case in 1857 when Jeremiah Lanphier, a simple man of faith and prayer, gathered a few businessmen for a noontime prayer meeting at the Old Dutch Church on Fulton Street in New York City. A handful of supplicants became a vast army of prayer warriors. A single prayer meeting turned into a nationwide prayer wave. Tens of thousands were converted, churches were transformed, society was benefited and the kingdom of God moved forward at a splendid rate. Why? Because great men were involved? Because new methods were utilized? No! No, indeed! It was God’s doing. By an extraordinary move of His Holy Spirit, He created an extraordinary movement which produced extraordinary results.
If we persist in describing human efforts as revival and continue to think in terms of "annual revival meetings," believing that the work we are doing for God is revival, then we must content ourselves with far less than God is willing and able to give. If, on the other hand, we can realize that revival is truly God at work in a most unusual fashion, then our entire being can be stirred with longings and supplications to see just such an outpouring of God’s mighty power in our own day.
The term revive suggests a return to consciousness or life. That which is revived becomes active or flourishing again. If consciousness and life are fully present – if everything is flourishing – revival is not needed and cannot be expected. Revival should be looked for during times of spiritual declension, during seasons of moral and spiritual bankruptcy and at those periods in the history of the Church when a "form of godliness" is present but the "power thereof" is denied.
Despite the tremendous amount of activity found in religious circles today, there is a very real sense in which the Church itself is like a sleeping giant. All the good that the Church is accomplishing throughout the world is nothing in comparison with the good that needs to be accomplished. The flurry of activity, so typical of evangelicalism, has still to awaken the sleeping giant. An increase in human endeavor may produce good fruit, but the great need is to revive that giant. Only God can accomplish this. When revival comes, the giant will not only stir and awaken, but also move with dynamic power and glorious impact.
Can you imagine the entire Body of Christ moving throughout the earth with unified purpose and Holy Spirit power? If that concept is too vast for your mind, think in terms of your own community. Consider every church in your community with every church member marching together in perfect harmony – every individual sharing precisely with every other individual the heartbeat of Jesus Christ. Imagine not one sleeping Christian left, not one backslidden believer remaining, but all alike devout and intent on seeing the will of Jesus Christ accomplished. To this startling picture add the same power of the Holy Spirit that transformed bumbling Peter into a Pentecost preacher. Unleash all this transforming power against the forces of sin and evil in your community. That is what revival is like!
– From Revival by Richard Owen Roberts. Copyright 1982 by Richard Owen Roberts. Used by permission.